As I write this, I'm also trying to catch up on the television I gave up for Lent. Of course, Hulu has made giving up TV a much less heroic sacrifice than it was back in the days when a missed episode was lost until reruns. Right now, I'm watching Will Ferrell's debut on "The Office" and so far, have seen the first minute and thirty-seven seconds about five times. Hulu -- an Internet site that shows television shows for free -- is usually reliable but for some reason tonight my connection is so slow it refuses to buffer.
If you're familiar with watching videos online, you know what "buffering" is. Little bars in the window that indicate a program is fully downloaded means you can watch it smoothly, uninterrupted. Failure for this to happen means multiple disappointments as the video stops choppily, starts and then stops again, leaving you wondering what happens next.
Sometimes I think it'd be helpful if we paid attention to our "bufferings" in life. I've noticed that we've elevated being busy and highly scheduled to a sort of status -- I don't know if it stems from a fear of being alone or a fear of not being perceived as useful, but we fill our days with so much noise that we often neglect to buffer our activities with rest, silence and most importantly, prayer.
St. Bernard advised that "one would be wise to see themselves not merely as a channel, but a reservoir. For a channel simply transmits something from one place to another, without retaining a drop for itself. While a reservoir first fills itself up, and then, without losing any of what it has, waters the fields it is meant to water."
In our busy lives, we tend to take care of our spiritual and physical needs after we've accomplished our "to-do" lists. Does this sound like your day? Wake up, check email on your phone, make coffee, watch the news, head out the door, go to work, pick up the kids, make dinner, watch TV, pay bills, plan vacations, help with homework, walk the dog, play "Farmville" and then go to bed later than planned, all so we can start it again the next day?
St. Bernard would admonish that we've become "channels" to simply accomplish tasks. Then we're surprised at our impatience or boredom. Just like my Hulu video, life will seem choppy and frustrating.
It's when we take the time to reflect, meditate, read Scripture and simply listen that we become reservoirs -- fully "buffered," if you will. When we take time at the beginning, end or at some consistent point throughout our day to reflect on who we are and who we belong to, we are able to build a sort of "buffer" for our soul. The challenges of life will still be there, but a foundation in prayer allows us to meet them without feeling completely drained.
Instead, we can offer from what we've received.
Alison Griswold is the director of youth ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church. Follow her on Twitter @alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.